Monday, November 26, 2012

Travels to Travnik

    I love days where they originally plan to be quite simple and perhaps even a little mundane and then all of a sudden, your host family announces that you're going to Travnik! So last Sunday morning, bright and early (bright and early? Ha.) my host parents, Irfan, Medina, and I pile into the car and drive off. Now, while it was early, that only added to the prettiness of the drive.

    We arrived at Travnik a few hours (and snacks) later and headed instantly to a restaurant for ćevapi. While we ordered, Medina told me to order a full ten piece ćevapi after convincing me they were very small in Travnik. A while later, our food appears and all I see is this heap of ćevapi and bread and I look at Medina and say, "This isn't small!" She tries again to convince me that it, indeed, is smaller than in Sarajevo, but I couldn't believe her. Instead I just dive in, making it my goal to eat ten. About an hour later, I finished my last ćevapi, stomach bursting, when Nizama loads three more onto my plate. All I could do was stare at it and not touch it in hopes somebody else would eat it.
    Irfan, Medina, and I then took off to climb the mountain to the white fort. I was expecting a bit more of an arduous climb after what Irfan said. But it wasn't too bad at all. Right about the same amount of climbing I have to do to get home everyday after school. We eventually reached the fort after much complaining on Irfan's part, and the view was gorgeous. 

     We then toured around the fort for awhile, taking lots of random pictures and embracing the crisp, fall day. Nizama and Esad eventually came up to meet us where this lovely shot was taken:

Pretty much my host family in a nutshell.
    We walked around a little more, while Esad explained to me (with Irfan nearby for translation) what the fort was used for and how there are Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian flags strung across the city because everybody wants to claim it. Even today there are still grudges about who owns what.

    After descending the mountain, we got in the car and headed to a very large shopping center where everything was so much cheaper than in Sarajevo! It was like bliss! Nizama bought me an absolutely gorgeous scarf and we ventured down to where an entire Christmas set up was. My heart soared with happiness when I saw the red, green, and glitter and the tall, artificial Christmas trees and Irfan just made fun of me. It's alright though. I'm going to introduce a classic Christmas to him when I start blasting Christmas carols from my room and buy a mini Christmas tree and lights. I am excited :)

    Shopping was finished and so was coffee (always include coffee) and we took off back home and in all, it was just a really nice day to get away. And to top it all off, my host mom also bought my chocolate. *Shrug* What can I say? She's awesome.

    Anyway, I have school tomorrow so I should wrap this up.

    Until Christmas carols dominate my iPod,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day of Giving Thanks

    Today is Thanksgiving in the United States and I think this day I am more thankful than I ever have been before. So many people have brought me where I am today, so many things have happened that have made me a better person. I understand I won't be at home with my family, indulging in a giant turkey, mashed potatoes, and some of the best food ever. Instead, I'm making my host family a simple pumpkin pie for a taste of home and tradition.

   But today is the day of thanks and I've realized there are so many things I am thankful for.
In no particular order, I am thankful for

  1. my natural family, who have encouraged me and helped me and prayed for me the entire journey to get here in Bosnia.
  2. my host family, who have accepted me as their own daughter or sister and have put up with my broken Bosnian and have made me laugh at so many different things.
  3. my coordinators, who have set everything up for me to be here. Whether they are in the States or Bosnia, they are the reason this has been such a smooth transition.
  4. the fact that I haven't gained any weight when all I've been eating is bread, Nutella, and meat.
  5. this gorgeous country that I have the privilege of living in.
  6. my friends here who have become my personal translator.
  7. my friends not here (I can't say just "back home" because I kind of have friends all over the world... and you know, I'm thankful for that too!) because they have supported me and loved me and I couldn't love them more.
  8. YES Abroad and Rotary Youth Exchange for providing me with two amazing exchanges. Neither one I would change for the world. Psh, I'm seeing the world, why on earth would I trade my exchange for it?
  9. technology and it's ability to let me keep in contact with friends and family all over the world. I mean, I just made pumpkin pie while talking to my mom in America. I love technology (but not as much as you and me, but still I love technology, always and forever :P)
  10. not having to watch a million games of American football.
  11. anyone and everyone who has been part of my life. Without you, I would not be where I am today.
     Thank you everyone for being a part of this journey and I'm sure my list could go on. I am now going to go indulge in the pumpkin pie I just made with my host mom which pretty much consisted of her showing me how it's done. I can't cook. Something you should know about me. So thank you Nizama for teaching me the amazing ways of using the kitchen!

     Anyway, thank you again and I wish everyone reading this a very happy American Thanksgiving!

    Until we meet again,
My awesome host parents and sister :) Medina... what are you doing?

Monday, November 19, 2012

From My Hometown

    There's something about talking about your hometown that just makes you want to talk forever. Something about sharing where you are from and how much you really do love it there is special and you want other people to realize that your hometown is an amazing place to visit, even though not many people know about it. On Wednesday, SHAKE headed back to the Madresa to tell them about where we were from.

    It was nice to go back, first of all. I was happy that I remembered most of the people and they remembered us. And while we thought we'd be presenting in a classroom like last time, we were instead shuffled into a very large, very intimidating lecture hall. All of the girls laughed a little nervously and shrugged. Well. This is new. 
    Emma was the first to go, talking about Down South. She did the entire presentation with a soft, sweet Southern accent and I'm pretty sure she had all the boys swooning. Especially when she was saying the names of states included in the south.
    Next was me with the Great Northwest, while keeping the focus on Oregon... and then shifted Oregon to mainly Portland. I spoke about Portland's amazing food, the interesting *coughweirdcough* places there, and the general beauty of the Northwest. It's funny though, how talking about a place that you've lived your teenage years in can make you want to tell people everything about it and then have no idea where to start. All I continued to do was emphasize that the Northwest is gorgeous and awesome and people should definitely come visit.

    Savannah then stepped up to talk about the Southwest, because she's from Arizona. She had some gorgeous pictures of sunsets and rolling desert and a cactus in her front yard. She educated us about Native Americans and the Four Corners (something new on my bucket list) and it made me want to go there.
   Anna then followed with the Midwest, as she's from Wisconsin. It made me a little happy as she talked about winter activities because it reminded me of Canada. She showed us a vast amount of farmland and cows and then handed out American candy to all the Madresa students.
   Last was Helena with the East, because she's originally from New York. Anyone could tell that Helena has the biggest soft spot for New York and the east in general and she loves it for every reason. The history, the beauty, the people... and I guess that's what true love is :).

   All-in-all, Madresa evening two was a success and it was fun talking to everyone again. If you would like more information on the Madresa and what we were doing, go here for more information.

   Anyway, I have school tomorrow.

   Until more adventures,

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kitties in a Restaurant

    A nice aspect of the YES Abroad exchange are the excursions. We travel within the country to get a better feel for what it looks like, the history, and the differences and similarities of people within a couple miles of each other. Yesterday, we went to Mostar!

    Saturday night, Helena stayed over so it would be easier to arrive all together. Five hours of sleep later (it was Irfan's 21st birthday so he was celebrating! HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOST BRO!), we were up nice and early (5:30am. Why.) and drove off to the train station. Now, the first time I was on a train was in France, but it wasn't for very long. This train to Mostar was two hours and I was excited. It was an old train, but cute and, before we knew it, we were on our way to Mostar!
    After an absolutely gorgeous ride through Bosnia-Herzegovinian countryside we arrived in Mostar! We met up with Luljeta and another American named Sarah for coffee before we began touring the city.

   First stop was a mosque. Because we wanted to go in, we all decided on head coverings and wrapped up. After a few pictures we decided to brave the minaret and climb to the very top. I forgot that in order to get there, you need to climb stairs.

    For those of you who don't really know me yet, I hate stairs. But if I want to see something and I have to climb those stairs in order to accomplish this, I will climb. We crawled inside the narrow, winding staircase and, step by step, we got closer to the top. With Jell-o legs and aching feet, I stepped on the last step and into the sunlight to get a beautiful view of Mostar. The sun hit the surrounding mountains at just the right spot and illuminated the changing leaves. Once we were done looking around and taking pictures, we dismounted which resulted in another completely different exercise and hoping that you wouldn't slip on the way down. Which the way down was much scarier than the way up. Eventually, I touched solid, safe ground and slid against the wall repeatedly declaring how out of shape I was. You'd think after three months of walking to school and all over Sarajevo, I'd be used to this. Nope.

    We then headed to Mostar's Baščaršija, but turned down a road to where a traditional Turkish home was. We bought some postcards and admired the courtyard and then headed upstairs for more photos. The room was decorated in all the tapestries and there was a loom in the corner and the windows overlooked the river below and it was just really beautiful.
    But then in the next room, there lay a chest. It used to be used for the bride's dowry or for traveling and whatnot. Just a large, wooden chest. Luljeta went over and opens it and says, "So. Who wants to play dress up?" I see her pull out these puffy traditional Bosnian woman pants and I light up and my hand shoots in the air like a schoolgirl, "Me!" She hands me the puffy pants and matching blouse, I pull on the embroidered vest and Luljeta tied the handkerchief around my head and the end result:

KATIE THE BOSNIAN GRANDMA. I don't know how I managed to make such convincing age lines in my face in this picture, but I didn't even recognize myself the first time I saw this photo. I then took off the handkerchief and put on the fez because I currently have an addiction with fezzes. I blame 'Doctor Who'. Every time I see one it's always, "It's a fez! I wear fezzes now. Fezzes are cool." and people who aren't Doctor Who fans just give me weird looks. *sigh* It'll come along.

    We then left the Turkish home and headed down to Baščaršija which led us to Stari Most! The bridge was beautiful and big and perfect. Mainly considering it had to be rebuilt after it was blown up in '93. Luljeta told us that people would jump of the bridge for money and they would taunt people by pretending they were going to jump to earn more money. The jump is almost thirty meters! That's roughly fifty-five feet!
   Wanting a better view of the bridge we decided that it would be a good idea to climb another minaret in another mosque. Let's just say that my calves hate me today. SO we mounted the minaret and Emma filmed Savannah's back with me complaining the entire time. It was Paris all over again. However, reaching the top was lovely. Do you see how blue that water is and how gorgeous that looks? That's not even with a classy camera and sick editing. That's just beautiful nature doing it's work!
    We then explored Baščaršija some more where I found some lovely handmade bracelets made out of copper. Many of the gifts I could have bought, were also in Sarajevo, so I decided to save my money at that moment (because I've been bad going shopping all the time and not budgeting very well... whoops).

    Then it was time for dinner! We stopped at an outdoor restaurant where stray cats were roaming around and it was just overall a very pretty place. Throughout the dinner, the cats circled around our ankles and, being a bit of a cat lover (I love dogs too. I have no hate to either animal) I dropped morsels of food. One kitty in particular stayed near me the entire time and ended up curling up in a little ball on my backpack, resting on my foot. It was the cutest little thing I have ever seen! It was so soft and cute and I started baby-talking it. That was followed by some ridiculing by the girls. *Shrug* Well. What can you do? When we had to leave, I picked the kitty up and held it as it purred and then fell into a sleep. I did not want to leave that kitty, but I didn't know how my host family would feel if I brought back a kitten from Mostar. I ended up naming the kitty Mostar and held it until everyone was ready to leave. Even then, I was very sad to give Mostar up.

    We were then set loose to explore Mostar on our own. While we thought we would get lost or lose track of time, we ran into a Canadian! She overheard us speaking English and she stopped us, so we introduced ourselves and when she said she was from Montréal, I mildly freaked out and exclaimed that I am Canadian and I was from Edmonton. We were pretty much instant best friends. Not five minutes later, we ran into a YES alumni, Abe! We started talking to him too until we all had to say good bye because Abe was with his parents and the Canadian had to go as well.
    Emma, Helena and I then took off to explore Mostar for the last half hour which, guess what, included climbing more stairs. I sucked it up though and started climbing which led us to some beautiful ruins with trees and flowers growing through. I attempted to make some sort of symbolic metaphor, but Helena kind of shot it down.

    We then met back up with Luljeta, Selma, and Sarah when, all of a sudden, another YES alumni appears! Luljeta invited him for coffee, so we take off towards the new mall for late night coffee before our train ride home. By this point, we were all exhausted and once we were on the train (we got a little room like in Harry Potter. Thus began the discussion of who was who), we all fell asleep in our huddled positions.

   Two hours later, we arrived back in Sarajevo where I was so thankful my host-family picked me up. We got home, I quickly reviewed for our History timed-write today and then went to bed.

   Anyway, Mostar was a fabulous, albeit exhausting, day and I'm so glad we were able to go. If you want to follow my shorter adventures, feel free to follow me on Twitter @KateWells7 !

   Until I adopt a kitty or go on another adventure!